E-sports is entering the mainstream

More than 11,000 people showed up to Madison Square Garden last weekend to watch video games.

You read that correct. More than 11,000 people, of their own volition, traveled to New York City and sat inside arguably the most famous sports arena to watch one of the biggest gaming tournaments of the year — the North American League of Legends Championships.

This tournament was so big, it forced professional wrestling company WWE to host its big summer weekend event at the nearby Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That’s big, considering the amount of money professional wrestling can still draw to a venue.

Yet the fact remains thousands of people, and millions watching around the world, watched a professional gaming tournament, further cementing the fact that professional e-sports are entering the mainstream.

Professional gamers are already drawing big money and big interest. Gaming-related channels command the most-viewed videos on Youtube each month, and Internet celebrities like PewDiePie, a 25-year-old Swedish man whose real name is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, routinely makes millions of dollars a year posting videos of themselves playing games.

Heck, the “League of Legends” tournament in New York last weekend gave $50,000 in prize money and a ticket to the 2015 world championships for the winning team.

All this money and attention is why companies like Amazon are investing in the future of e-sports. Amazon bought popular live-streaming service Twitch.tv last year for just under $1 billion, ostensibly for the right to cross-promote live video game feeds with its technology-related offerings.

E-sport tournaments for games like “League of Legends,” an online multiplayer strategy game, are even garnering mainstream coverage from sports outlets like ESPN, which routinely hosts gaming tournaments on one of its many channels and offered highlights from the North American “League of Legends” tournament on SportsCenter last week.

We can argue whether playing video games is a real sport until we’re blue in the face, but the fact is video game tournaments and the personalities behind them are garnering enough attention that they’re finally being treated like any other sport in the eyes of the media and the public. Sooner or later, fans will cheer for their favorite teams and players in tournaments for popular games such as “Call of Duty” and “Heroes of the Storm,” among others.

That’s just like any other sport. The money involved will make sure of it. E-sports are fast becoming mainstream, and we’ll all have to glue our eyes to the monitors to find out what’s next.

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